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The 5 Pillars of Business Development for Small Law Firms

6 mins

ALL, Law Practice Growth

Every law firm needs a foundation to build on, figurative “pillars” that hold up the rest of the practice and elevate it to new, successful heights. The addition of new software, personnel, and other resources can sometimes complicate your process and cloud the true purpose of your practice: to successfully obtain and serve as many clients as possible. By remembering your roots, though, it’s always easier to cut through those shiny distractions and keep your growth goals in mind.

Here we’ve listed the five pillars that every attorney should have in place in order to facilitate business development for their law firm:

I. Practice Mission and Values

What are the reasons you started your practice? You obviously want to put that hard-earned legal degree to good use, and it’s nice to earn some money along the way, but passion is going to be an integral part of maintaining your drive to succeed. Once you start asking yourself, “Why am I even doing this?” you’ve already lost the battle.

Your practice’s mission and core values are going to serve as the backdrop to any marketing material you produce. Business development for law firms means being able to build one thing above all else with clients: trust. If you can empathize with your prospects and show that you have good and true intentions in terms of helping them with their cases, signing them on as a client will be that much easier.

Draw up a mission statement that clearly states, in 100 words or less, why your law firm exists. Consider what your goals are, what you want any associates or other team members to achieve by working with your practice, and what your clients’ motivations should be when they come to work with you. Click here to see a small sample collection of legal mission statements if you need some help getting started.

II. A Reliable Referral Network

You can put in all of the back-breaking work you can in order to grow your practice, but a buildup of work leads to a buildup of stress, ultimately leading to your burnout and inevitable retreat into the wilderness to do some soul-searching. We don’t want you to end up in the woods. Instead, share your marketing workload by developing a referral network with associates.

Establishing a symbiotic relationship with other professionals, both inside and outside of the legal realm, is good for everybody. It’s good for the firms because they each have passive streams of prospects coming in their doors, and they build trust with their clients by referring them to experts that can help with problems outside of their practice field. It’s good for the clients if only for the fact that they actually get an answer to their problems sooner, and don’t have to go headhunting for reliable vendors.

To set up this referral network, you’re going to have to rethink your approach to relationship building. You aren’t just “networking” anymore — you’re connecting groups of people together. Assess your professional relationships, the services you provide, and common needs or questions that are brought up by your clients. For example, do you practice estate planning (or PI, or family law)? Chances are that your clients could use some financial advice, too — connect them with a trusted financial advisor who you know will return the favor in the future. If you keep context in mind, the opportunities will quickly present themselves.

In addition to becoming a connector, you’ll want to actually visualize your potential referral base as a marketable audience. Click here to see our related post, Attorneys: Make These Marketing Tweaks to Skyrocket Your Referrals.

III. Credibility and Expertise

Some attorneys try to capture clients with the “snake oil” approach to business development, assuring them that they can help them resolve any legal needs. More often than not, however, those attorneys end up sounding like the untrustworthy used car salesman that has a job, but only because the most desperate customers go to him. You don’t want just desperate clients. You want good ones.

This is where becoming an authority in your field of practice becomes so important. The sooner prospects put your firm’s name on the shortlist to solve their legal issues, the sooner you can bring them on as a client. It’s important to specialize, however, and identify the biggest opportunity for positioning yourself as an authority. Showing up all over the place and acting like a jack of all trades isn’t as powerful as being a well-known master of one.

To get yourself out there, blog articles will definitely help, but there are alternatives if that’s not your thing. Reaching out and commenting on current events via social channels, or answering questions on public forums like FreeAdvice.com can be a less time-intensive way to develop a prospect-facing presence.

One last tip to keep in mind: even though you’re demonstrating your expertise, don’t lose your humanity. Emotional connection and empathy is always going to make you more memorable than a robotic alternative. Surprisingly, although you want to avoid being the used car salesman, attorneys can actually look to late-night infomercials for some tips on communicating with their prospects — click here to see what we mean.

IV. A Workflow Process

Thinking of the pillars in terms of strength, you might argue that having solid workflow processes is the sturdiest one. When working on business development for your law firm, you know there’s going to be some labor involved. If you can strip it down, streamline it, and effectively delegate or automate that labor, you’re going to be in a better position to manage it all.

Since there are so many types of tasks to be done in a law firm, attorneys end up faced with a lot of options for approaching that work. We have a couple of resources on hand that can help you decide the best possible course of action for your own workflow:

V. Making Continued Investments

Business development for law firms. Practice growth. Expansion of your organization. We’re talking about building up or out, here, people. The idea of growth in almost every case requires an investment of some sort. You water a plant before it’s able to bear fruit. In order to get your work done and please your clients, you need to have access to the necessary resources.

In the case of your practice, you can contribute to its growth by reinforcing weak areas in the organizational structure. Here are some suggestions to get started:

  • Are you the sole employee at your firm? Hire an assistant, even for part-time to start, so you at least have the option to delegate during busy periods.
  • Do you have team members, but there are bottlenecks to their productivity? Enable them with the right software, or with new procedural guidelines.
  • Has the influx of prospects slowed down recently? Dedicate blocks of time to develop messaging, ask for referrals, reach out via social, or otherwise market your law firm.

By establishing and regularly revisiting these pillars, you’re able to maintain the integrity of whatever marketing plan you choose to follow. Speaking of marketing plans, if you are looking to develop a new one or strengthen what you already have in place, there are some critical questions you can ask that will help you make the right connections, build the right messages, and make sure those messages get heard by your ideal clients. Click here to download your free resource, The Complete Guide to Building a Marketing Strategy for Your Law Firm.

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Raj Jha